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Thread: Hamilton Leave 'em Awestruck

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    Hamilton Leave 'em Awestruck

    Article from Wheeler:

    http://news.cincypost.com/apps/pbcs....703050344/1027


    SARASOTA, Fla. - The discussion always comes back to the years Josh Hamilton was away from the game. There were four of them, counting the partials and the days he doesn't remember; the days he gave over to Crown Royal and whatever substances got him his drug suspension; the days he spent in the tattooist's chair, covering his 235 pounds - which fast became fewer - as if he wanted them to go away; the days he would see things that weren't there, such as a SWAT team outside his apartment window.

    Now, though, in a Reds uniform for the first time, with a chance to make a major-league roster for the first time; now that he's 25 and a husband and father and straight; now that the exhibition season has started and Jerry Narron can't write out a lineup without sticking him in it; now, at last, the Hamilton prattle is rounding back to pure, rarefied baseball. To all the years he was not away from the game, but in it with all his soul and body. Now, as his early batting average straddles .500, as balls whistle over outfielders' heads, as he blends into his surroundings with a familiarity that seems to make it simple, those are the years that count.

    Back in North Carolina, Hamilton was the kind of athlete who could have had his way in any sport. But for him, there was no sport like baseball.

    "Josh played the game from the time he was very young, and he focused on baseball," said Reds coach Johnny Narron, who, as a father of a son who played with and against the man-child, has watched and sometimes coached Hamilton since way back when. "Coming up, he played an awful lot of games in the spring, summer and fall. He knows the game and he's been around people who know the game; and he applies it.

    "When he was a kid, Josh was so dominant that parents were asking directors of leagues to move him up so he wouldn't hurt somebody. He hit the ball so well and threw the ball so hard that it was always a concern."

    By the time Hamilton was a teenager, Narron was managing the "showcase" team, as they called it, and, in his professional capacity as a scout for the Atlanta Braves, tracking the prodigy's progress. There was only one reservation about the kid's talent or makeup or total package. When he graduated from high school, would he be taken as the first overall draft pick as a pitcher, or would be taken with the first pick as a hitter?

    The Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who did the picking and bestowed upon Hamilton a record signing bonus, asked the kid, whose answer was that he didn't want to let a ballgame go by without playing in it. Nor did the experts want him to.

    "That was one of the things the scouts talked a lot about," Narron recalled. "He was throwing the ball 94, 95 miles an hour, and sometimes 97 or 98 off the mound, and he was a left-hander with movement in high school (250 strikeouts in 143 innings over his last two years). But the thing the scouts all agreed on was that he was so talented athletically, and with all the tools he possessed, he needed to play every day. And if that didn't work out, they could possibly put him on the mound later."

    By the look of things lately - and in spite of the fact that Hamilton has blithely offered his services to Jerry Narron as a late-inning reliever - that's not likely to happen. Take Saturday, against the Twins at Ed Smith Stadium.

    In his first at-bat, Hamilton, after taking a strike and fouling another, worked the count full before bouncing a double over the wall in left-center. In his second, he smoked the first pitch to right-center for another double. In his third, he ripped the first pitch to left for a single. In his fourth, he walked. In his fifth, he popped up. In no at-bat did he swing and miss even once. In none did he lurch to pull the ball, as young power hitters so infamously do.

    It was the kind of performance that would seem to make Hamilton's roster spot all the more inevitable. As a Rule 5 selection, the Reds are obligated to keep the five-tooler on the major-league team or return him to Tampa Bay. With his possibilities, they're loath to do the latter.

    And frankly, Hamilton has given them no reason to. Forget his neon potential for a moment, and consider just his utility value. Unlike Wily Mo Pena, a man of similar physical wherewithal, Hamilton is possessed of a natural's feel for the game. He runs the bases with above-average speed and savvy. He has an arm like Homer Bailey's. And while we haven't yet seen much of his glove, he wears it proudly.

    "I still think defense is probably my best strength," Hamilton said Sunday, between a batting cage session with Johnny Narron and hopping on the bus to Bradenton, where he played center field and batted cleanup.

    It was in Bradenton, in Thursday's first game of the spring, that Hamilton fully and finally got back that old baseball feeling. He had been reinstated last June, and played in 15 Class A games before shutting down for arthroscopic surgery on his meniscus. He had worked out all winter with both Narrons. For a while, he had even lived at a ballpark in Clearwater, tending the field for the privilege of practicing on it when the day was done. All of that was swell. But it wasn't this.

    "I can't describe how good it feels to be back out here and be around my teammates and be on the field and pat my glove before pitches and be out here in the sunshine," Hamilton said. He didn't mention how good it felt, that first game in Bradenton, to club a 500-foot home run over the batter's eye in straightaway center. And that wasn't the best part of the day.

    "I rode home with my wife," he said - with respect to temptation, he doesn't even carry car keys - "and I still had my uniform on, and we stopped at a Dairy Queen and ate, and it almost felt like I was back in Legion ball. When I got home, I took my uniform off and I just looked and it and was kind of awestruck that I was wearing it again."

    Meanwhile, those observing Hamilton's comeback have been awestruck not only by his power, but by his performance at large. No amount of rust can conceal the shimmering fact that the Reds have a ballplayer on their hands.

    "The thing I've liked and been encouraged by," said Johnny Narron, whose job description includes personal support for Hamilton, "is how well he's been able to adapt and be calm and quiet and at ease at the plate. Early on, my concern was that he would be too violent and overly aggressive. But I've seen that relaxation come over him. That's real important to me.

    "He's also got great eyesight. He even comments to me how well he sees the ball to the bat and even coming back off the bat, which I don't know if that's possible or not."

    Then again, who would have thought it possible for a guy in his first game with a big-league team, after nearly four years out of baseball, to hit a 500-home run, and then go 8-for-15, and do it all under the scrutiny of national media, while fighting a drug addiction?

    It's still a grim gauntlet that Hamilton has to run, and there's no telling, at this early point, how its perils will play out. But in the meantime, his first few days have prompted another pertinent question:

    Who would have thought the Reds would come up with a player like this?

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    SERP Emeritus paintmered's Avatar
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    Re: Hamilton Leave 'em Awestruck

    Quote Originally Posted by minus5 View Post
    "I rode home with my wife and I still had my uniform on, and we stopped at a Dairy Queen and ate, and it almost felt like I was back in Legion ball. When I got home, I took my uniform off and I just looked and it and was kind of awestruck that I was wearing it again."
    Quote of the spring.
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    Re: Hamilton Leave 'em Awestruck

    over/under the opening day OF is
    RF Griffey
    CF Hamilton
    LF Dunn

    ???

    is he the player to push Griffey to Right?
    He can develop if he plays every day...
    he has the talent...

    its interesting...

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    Re: Hamilton Leave 'em Awestruck

    Quote Originally Posted by The_jbh View Post
    over/under the opening day OF is
    RF Griffey
    CF Hamilton
    LF Dunn

    ???

    is he the player to push Griffey to Right?
    He can develop if he plays every day...
    he has the talent...

    its interesting...
    I can't see Hamilton starting on Opening Day unless multiple injuries hammer the Reds. I'd say Freel has the inside track to be the 3rd starting outfielder right now.

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    Re: Hamilton Leave 'em Awestruck

    The part I loved was, as great as he hits the ball and throws the ball, he considers his defense to be his strong suit.

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    Re: Hamilton Leave 'em Awestruck

    Quote Originally Posted by paintmered View Post
    Quote of the spring.
    That is awesome.

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    Re: Hamilton Leave 'em Awestruck

    This kid is a superior talent. What's cool is there are no real comps for him -- some have compared him to WW2 vets, guys who left the majors to fight in the war for years and then got back on the diamond -- but here's a guy who took development time off, suffered through drug addiction and grew physically. What now? Who knows? But it certainly appears as if the tools are intact.

    A great, great move by Krivsky and his FO. Any other team in baseball could have had Hamilton in the Rule V, but only 1 did what it took to get him -- for nothing.
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    Re: Hamilton Leave 'em Awestruck

    Optimism is a wonderful thing but for the most part pitchers are working on things at this point and results are NOT the primary concern(at least for those assured of a roster spot).

    It seems the Reds won't be sending him back to the Eggs but lets wait 3-4 weeks before anointing him the CF and an opening day starter. At this point its just one day at a time.

    What seems likely to me is that Denorfia doesn't really have a spot on this team unless a trade is made(Hopper would make more sense as the 5th OF anyway).
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    Re: Hamilton Leave 'em Awestruck

    Quote Originally Posted by flyer85 View Post
    Optimism is a wonderful thing but for the most part pitchers are working on things at this point and results are NOT the primary concern(at least for those assured of a roster spot).

    It seems the Reds won't be sending him back to the Eggs but lets wait 3-4 weeks before anointing him the CF and an opening day starter. At this point its just one day at a time.
    Very good point flyer. Patience is the key with Hamilton.

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    Re: Hamilton Leave 'em Awestruck

    Quote Originally Posted by flyer85 View Post
    Optimism is a wonderful thing but for the most part pitchers are working on things at this point and results are NOT the primary concern(at least for those assured of a roster spot).

    It seems the Reds won't be sending him back to the Eggs but lets wait 3-4 weeks before anointing him the CF and an opening day starter. At this point its just one day at a time.

    What seems likely to me is that Denorfia doesn't really have a spot on this team unless a trade is made(Hopper would make more sense as the 5th OF anyway).
    Lets pretend that as ST wears on, and pitchers really start to turn up the heat, that Hamilton still continues to play very well. Then what?

    Hand him a position? That seems unlikely

    Put him on the bench as use a fill in the OF until a spot opens up? Seems like the wisest course of action. Plus, if he still rakes, what a great addition to the bench.

    Go through the dance of sending him to AAA, working out a deal with the Marlins or whatever so we can stash him away. Seems like if he continues to play well the Marlins wouldn't be too likely to not want him back.

    I have to be honest here. Let's say he plays very well, I'm actually a little afraid that just handing him a starting position might be bad for him. From a sobriety standpoint, would that go to his head? Would he start to get arrogent again and think he could handle it? Would it be better than he have to continue to earn his stripes? Sometimes a little humility is a great thing and it may pay off in spades if he hangs around the club for longer because of it.
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    I simply don't have access to a "cares about RBI" place in my psyche. There is a "mildly curious about OBI%" alcove just before the acid filled lake guarded by robot snipers with lasers which leads to the "cares about RBI" antechamber though. - Nate

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    Re: Hamilton Leave 'em Awestruck

    I agree with you Ltlabner. I wouldn't simply hand him a starting spot no matter how well he plays in spring. Ease him along during the season. There will be plenty of at-bats for the 4th and 5th outfielders.

    By the way, it's the Rays not the Marlins.

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    Re: Hamilton Leave 'em Awestruck

    Quote Originally Posted by BRM View Post
    I agree with you Ltlabner. I wouldn't simply hand him a starting spot no matter how well he plays in spring. Ease him along during the season. There will be plenty of at-bats for the 4th and 5th outfielders.

    By the way, it's the Rays not the Marlins.
    Details, details. Sorry bout that. :all_cohol <------ too much too early
    a super volcano of ridonkulous suckitude.

    I simply don't have access to a "cares about RBI" place in my psyche. There is a "mildly curious about OBI%" alcove just before the acid filled lake guarded by robot snipers with lasers which leads to the "cares about RBI" antechamber though. - Nate

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    Tired of talk. Win! Joseph's Avatar
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    Re: Hamilton Leave 'em Awestruck

    In his first at-bat, Hamilton, after taking a strike and fouling another, worked the count full before bouncing a double over the wall in left-center. In his second, he smoked the first pitch to right-center for another double. In his third, he ripped the first pitch to left for a single. In his fourth, he walked. In his fifth, he popped up. In no at-bat did he swing and miss even once. In none did he lurch to pull the ball, as young power hitters so infamously do.

    Got to love those comments.

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    Re: Hamilton Leave 'em Awestruck

    What is so impressive is that before the ST started he knew he had to impress the powers that be. Instead of going all out and trying to hit a bunch of HR's he is patient and making contact. Which puts him ahead of all the other OF's on this roster.

    IMO if Hamilton makes the roster Freel or Deno will be traded. Whats so hard to believe that Hamilton could surplant Freel in the OF. Freel can't play everyday and strikes out a bunch. I think if ST proves that he is one of the top 3 OF's on this team then he deserves the spot regardless of his lack of experience.

    I'm caught up in the whole "Natural" story line, but isnt it about time a Reds fan had something to root for?

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    Re: Hamilton Leave 'em Awestruck

    Quote Originally Posted by flyer85 View Post
    Optimism is a wonderful thing but for the most part pitchers are working on things at this point and results are NOT the primary concern(at least for those assured of a roster spot).

    It seems the Reds won't be sending him back to the Eggs but lets wait 3-4 weeks before anointing him the CF and an opening day starter. At this point its just one day at a time.

    What seems likely to me is that Denorfia doesn't really have a spot on this team unless a trade is made(Hopper would make more sense as the 5th OF anyway).

    The Reds giving up on Chris Denorfia for the likes of Norris Hopper would be a prime example of an act of criminal stupidity. I don't know who would get the most blame, Jerry Narron, or Wayne Krivsky.

    I would hope that Krivsky would have the stones and the GM presence to pull Narron aside and smack some serious sense into him if Narron actually believes Hopper deserves a 25 man roster spot before Denorfia.


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